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Following the 1971 Bangladesh War, the Bangladesh government publicly designated the thousands of women raped by the Pakistani military and their local collaborators as birangonas, ("brave women”). Nayanika Mookherjee demonstrates that while this celebration of birangonas as heroes keeps them in the public memory, they exist in the public consciousness as what Mookherjee calls a spectral wound. Dominant representations of birangonas as dehumanized victims with disheveled hair, a vacant look, and rejected by their communities create this wound, the effects of which flatten the diversity of their experiences through which birangonas have lived with the violence of wartime rape. In critically examining the pervasiveness of the birangona construction, Mookherjee opens the possibility for a more politico-economic, ethical, and nuanced inquiry into the sexuality of war.
Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence elucidates the centrality of political and foundational violence in the governance of conflicted democracies in the postcolony, calling attention to the urgent need for transformation. Spectacular and quotidian gendered and sexualized violence by states and collectives holds in place fraught and unjust histories and relations between elites and subalterns, majoritarian subjects and non-dominant “Others.” At the intersections of nationalist and decolonial confrontations, such violence regularizes states of emergency and exception. Through oral history, archival, and legal research undertaken over three years, this interdisciplinary work underscores the need for transitional and transformative justice mechanisms in conflicted democracies to address protracted conflict (focusing on their internal dimensions) and social upheaval. India serves as a case in point, exemplified by ongoing and recent conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab and episodic social upheavals in Gujarat (in 2002) and Odisha (in 2008). Victim-survivor narratives of counter-memory, historical records, and legal analyses of formative cases detail the depth and texture of social suffering and illustrate the inadequacy and inhumanity of official responses to events of extraordinary violence. Expanding on methods in justice and accountability and espousing the right to heal, scholars and practitioners raise critical questions regarding the state, civil society, and diverse institutions, and the most elemental of constituents: victim-survivors.
“A very important feature of Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence: The Right to Heal is that it shows the ubiquity of sexual violence that is not simply concomitant to other forms of violence but is a weapon that is part and parcel of the weaponry in the hands of the state and of transnational militant movements. What are the mechanisms through which violence is continuously sustained within democracies? This exemplary book helps us ask that question without the plethora of evasions that often allow democratic states to deflect that question to some other concern—national security, national honor or the necessity of pragmatism in view of the enormity of new forms of warfare. I am so grateful for this book and for the courage of scholar-activists and the victim-survivors who have put the results of years of hard labor on these questions before us.”
Veena Das, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology, John Hopkins University
“The monograph provides an incisive, comparative, and contextual framework for grappling with some of the most challenging issues of our time—gender and sexual violence in conflict. The document makes a compelling case for the development of effective national accountability mechanisms for political democracies to address conflict-based issues and grave social violence. The monograph underlines the pressing need to place victims-survivors at the center of owning knowledge and defining remedy. This monumental work stands to impact scholarship, policy, and advocacy for addressing gender-based and sexualized violence in conflicted democracies.”
Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2008-2014
On September 1, 1995, Tibetan nationalism and international feminism cam together in front of a global audience when nine exiled Tibetan women staged a demonstration at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. From a Tibetan perspective, the women created history by becoming the first Tibetans ever to hold a protest on Chinese soil. This book traces the history of organized political resistance by Tibetan women over the 40-year period leading up of the Beijing Conference. It describes and analyses the development of the Tibetan Women's Association, the mass women's organization of the Tibetan Exile Community and in particular the impact of feminism on it. It looks at at the overlaps and tensions between nationalism and feminism, and examines how both can be constructed in exile. In doing so, the book raises questions of belonging and representation, of change and permanence, of political expediency and idealism. Overall, it provides a unique insight into the nature of Tibetan Nationalism and its interaction with international forces and movements.
Shenkottai Sri Avudai Akkal, a remarkable eighteenth-century woman saint from Tamil Nadu, was a self-realised advaitin who sang passionately about the ecstasy of spiritual union with the Absolute. A desolate and stigmatised Brahmin child-widow, she was initiated into Vedanta by the great master Tiruvisainallur Shridhara Venkatesa Ayyawal. Her songs, a radical elision of the metaphysical sublime and personal devotion, are narrated through existential tropes sourced from daily life, and also offer a powerful critique of the oppressive orthodox socio-religious practices of that period.
Composed in simple, colloquial Tamil, and bringing hope and solace to women in general and widows in particular for almost three centuries, these songs by Avudai Akkal were preserved within the oral tradition by Brahmin women of Tirunellveli district who sang them on all occasions. The songs were documented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have appeared in many Tamil publications. They appear in English translation for the first time in this book. Each song is accompanied by annotations and themed essays.
Uma Chakravarti’s introduction to Fault Lines of History: The India Papers 2 uses a brief history of protest in the north-eastern states of India to illustrate the contract between the state, the army and the rule of law. Detailing the spread of AFSPA as a result and a feature of this contract, Chakravarti points to particular building blocks in the story of resistance in the area — the case of Manorama, Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, the naked protest by imas in Manipur among others — and castigates mainstream state theorists’ neglect of AFSPA’s existence and growing application as a tool of oppressive state-building. She explains how the postcolonial state’s painting of AFSPA and militarisation, and the accompanying conflicts, as ‘states of exception’ is key to the contract, which is characterised by the tension between the rule of law and the state’s avowal of sovereign emergency.
The chapter provides a valuable cross-section of the volume, summarising each author’s argument while drawing connections between them and larger themes of impunity, militarisation, conflict, revolution, state (un)accountability, ‘security’ and feminist scholarship. She interweaves material on militarised regions in the north-east of India, Kashmir and Chhattisgarh with work on caste-based structures of violence built on and around Dalit bodies, as well as on stripping and parading of women’s bodies as ritual humiliation, to highlight the implications of an aberrant state wielding its impunity as a precise and wide-ranging weapon.
Knowing Our Rights is designed as a tool for activists engaged in lobbying and advocacy related to Muslim women's rights within the family, at the policy level and in communities. It covers twenty-six topics relevant to marriage and divorce, including the status of children (paternity and adoption) and child custody and guardianship. It is unique in providing a user-friendly, cross-comparative analysis of the diversities and commonalities of laws and customs across the Muslim world. This handbook is an essential resource for those taking a critical and questioning approach to rights, laws, and constructions of womanhood in Muslim countries and communities and beyond.
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is an international support network formed in 1984, in response to situations that required urgent action, related to Islam, laws and women. Starting as an Action Committee, WLUML evolved into an international network of information, solidarity and support.
In the run-up the fourth World Social Forum held in Mumbai, India in January 2004, civil activists and student organised a major series of seminars in Delhi University to discuss the Forum and its politics. The 'Open Space' seminar series, as it came to be called, picked up on the idea of the Forum as a relatively free space, where all kinds of ideas could not meet and be discussed. The book, the first in a series that explore the new ideas generated by the discusssions took place on all these issues, comprises chapters based on the transcripts of presentation made by academics and activists during the seminars, as well as discussions on the questions arising from the presentation. Can the World Social Forum helps us to conceptualise and actualise a new politics? Can this new politics? Can this new politics be free from violence? Can the experience and knowledge of great movements such as the movements for environment, and the women's movement, contribute to the creation of a new politics? How can such a politics be sustained? The essays in this book, written in an easy and accessible style, are informed by these question. they offer the reader different and complex ways of understanding the processes that have helped to shape the world social forum and the new politics that seems to be emerging, and what all this represents, for life, society, and politics more generally.
Talaash is the second novel of the Bangladeshi writer Shaheen Akhtar. It captures the brutalities of the 1971 war of liberation and its contingent afterlife -- more specifically, the scars it has left on women. For thirty long years, Mariam, the protagonist of the novel, lives with memories of a war that refuses to end for her. The analeptic and proleptic shapings of Shaheen's prose travel in and through those shattered memories (and their public use) to construct a devastating archive of pain and anguish, far beyond the pale of cause and effect. Shaheen Akhtar's mesmerizing and moving novel, set against the background of the Bangladesh war of independence, explores the violence done to women, their courage and heartbreak, their search for love and their betrayal. Taalash (The Search) was awarded the Prothom Alo Literary Prize in 2004.
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The states in the northeast of India have been subject to multiple protracted conflicts. In the cases where the gendered nature of these conflicts is considered, stereotypes of women as passive victims or natural peacemakers tend to be reproduced, and scholars follow the establishment’s cues in employing analyses from a conventional security studies perspective, focusing on ceasefires and surrender packages for militants, male-dominated negotiations over autonomy and statehood, and ‘homeland’ politics. Even as women have become increasingly vocal in civil society attempts to resolve conflict and build peace in the region, their voices and work are ignored. The media has turned its spotlight on activists like the Meira Paibis and Irom Sharmila, but has yet to acknowledge the significance of women’s everyday resistance, activism and agency – and this lack of attention is a further aspect of their marginalization.
This volume sheds light on the successes and failures of the women’s movements in and of the region; women’s responses and engagements with conflict and peace-building; as well as their challenges, aspirations and experiences as agents of change. It adds important insights into the debate on gender and political change in societies affected by conflict. Moreover, by engaging critically with the ‘women, peace and security’ literature, the volume takes a fresh look at ‘universalist’ feminist and interventionist biases, questioning the notion that peace processes should be treated as windows of opportunity for women’s empowerment and positing that it is crucial to understand gender relations during conflict as historically contingent, complex and multifaceted, and intertwined in the social fabric.
Winner of the 2005 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize
Even childbirth is affected by globalization—and in India, as elsewhere, the trend is away from home births assisted by midwives toward hospital births that increasingly rely on new technologies. And yet, as this work of critical feminist ethnography clearly demonstrates, as biomedical models of childbirth spread throughout the globe, they fuse with local practices to create distinctive forms of modern birth.
Through vivid description and animated dialogue, this book conveys the birth stories of the women of Tamil Nadu in their own voices. Cecilia Van Hollen uses these stories to explore larger questions about how the structures of colonialism and postcolonial international and national development have helped to shape the form and meaning of birth for Indian women today.
Cecilia Van Hollen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University.
This book provides a holistic analysis of the gendered nature of armed conflict and political violence, and in a broader understanding of the complex, changing roles and power relations between women and men during such circumstances, predominantly viewed as ‘male domains’, perpetrated by men acting as soldiers, guerillas, paramilitaries or peacemakers. The involvement of women has received far less attention, with a tendency to portray a simplistic division of roles between men as aggressors and women as victims, particularly of sexual abuse. Consequently the gendered causes, costs and consequences of violent conflicts have been, at best, under-represented and, most often, misrepresented.
Caroline O. N. Moser, a social anthropologist and social policy specialist, is a Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, London.
Fiona C. Clark is an independent researcher.
The Sexual Violence and Impunity in South Asia research project (coordinated by Zubaan and supported by the International Development Research Centre) brings together, for the first time in the region, a vast body of knowledge on this important – yet silenced – subject. Six country volumes (one each on Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and two on India) comprising over fifty research papers and two book-length studies detail the histories of sexual violence and look at the systemic, institutional, societal, individual and community structures that work together to perpetuate impunity for perpetrators.
This volume focuses on Bangladesh, a nation born in 1971, in a birth that was as marked by bloodshed as it was by sexual violence. The history of widespread sexual violence, and incidents of sexual slavery, as well as the absence of accountability for the perpetrators, is by now well known. The essays here address the structural dynamics of impunity at the individual and societal levels, looking not only at the conditions that go into its creation, but also the elements that fuel it. They ask what helps it to become so embedded and point to its human, global and national costs. Together they explore the ways in which the women’s movement and feminist practice have worked to demand accountability and recognition for the victims and survivors of sexual violence, challenging the impunities embedded in the patriarchal structures of Bangladeshi society. In doing so, they bear witness to the continuing efforts of women’s groups in Bangladesh to give this crucial issue the attention that it deserves, for without that, justice for victims and survivors, will remain elusive.
Many consider the autobiography to be a Western genre that represents the self as fully autonomous. The contributors to Speaking of the Self challenge this presumption by examining a wide range of women’s autobiographical writing from South Asia. Expanding the definition of what kinds of writing can be considered autobiographical, the contributors analyze everything from poetry, songs, mystical experiences and diaries, to prose, fiction, architecture and religious treatises. The authors they study are just as diverse: a Mughal princess, an eighteenth-century courtesan from Hyderabad, a nineteenth-century Muslim prostitute in Punjab, a housewife in colonial Bengal, a Muslim Gandhian devotee of Krishna, several female Indian and Pakistani novelists and two male actors who worked as female impersonators. The contributors find that in these autobiographies the authors construct their gendered selves in relational terms. Throughout, they show how autobiographical writing - in whatever form it takes - provides the means towards more fully understanding the historical, social and cultural milieu in which the author performs herself and creates her subjectivity.
In this creative, ethnographic and historical critique of labor practices on an Indian plantation, Piya Chatterjee provides a sophisticated examination of the production, consumption and circulation of tea. Allowing personal, scholarly and artistic voices to speak in turn, the author discusses the fetishization of women who labor under colonial, post/colonial and now neofeudal conditions. A Time for Tea demonstrates that at the heart of these narratives of travel, conquest and settlement are compelling stories of women workers. While exploring the global and political dimensions of local practices of gendered labor, Chatterjee also reflects on the privileges and paradoxes of her own "decolonisation" as a third-world feminist anthropologist.
PIYA CHATTERJEE is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of California, Riverside, USA
This landmark collection on colonial history is now available in a brand new edition as part of the Zubaan Classics series to celebrate Zubaan's 10th anniversary.
This collection of essays stands at an unarticulated conjuncture within the feminist movement and women's studies that have emerged in India since the 1970s. The anthology attempts to explore the inter-relation of patriarchies with political economy, law, religion and culture and to suggest a different history of 'reform' movements, and of class and gender relations. The book seeks to uncover the dialectical relation of feminism and patriarchy both in the policies of the colonial State and the politics of anticolonial movements. The writers in this volume include scholars from various disciplines.
Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid taught literature at Indraprastha College for Women, Delhi University. Together they have edited a collection of essays entitled Women and Culture and have carried out extensive research on widow immolation in Rajasthan.
This collection provides a synoptic representation of the development of women's studies in India from the late seventies to the present. Divided into different subject areas, the Reader captures the wealth of information in this new field, and looks at how women's studies scholarship has shaped both the academy and spheres of policy-making and advocacy. The essays included here offer not only a curriculum for the teaching of women's studies, but also act as an introductory text for the interested reader. The book represents the work of several women's studies scholars such as Vina Mazumdar, Lotika Sarkar, Devaki Jain, Nirmala Banerjee, Patricia Uberoi, Bina Agarwal, Flavia Agnes, Shohini Ghosh, Malavika Karlekar, Leela Kasturi, Joy Deshmukh, Zoya Hasan, Ratna Sudarshan, Ratna Kapur and others. Themes covered include the women's movement in India, the legal framework, politics, educational intervention, encounters with violence, the family, sexuality and work.
Mala Khullar is a freelance consultant and has worked with the Asian Centre for Women's Studies, EWHA Women's University, Seoul; the Aga Khan Foundation, New Delhi; Bernard Van Leer Foundation, the Hague; and the Centre for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi.
Organizing Empire critically examines how concepts of individualism functioned to support and resist British imperialism in India. Through readings of British colonial and Indian nationalist narratives that emerged in parliamentary debates, popular colonial histories, newsletters, memoirs, biographies, and novels. Purnima Bose investigates the ramifications of reducing collective activism to individual intentions. Paying particular attention to the construction of gender, she shows that ideas of individualism rhetorically and theoretically bind colonials, feminists, nationalists, and neocolonials to one another. She demonstrates how reliance on ideas of the individual - as scapegoat or hero - enabled colonial and neocolonial powers to deny the violence that they perpetrated. At the same time, she shows how analyses of the role of the individual provide a window into the dynamics and limitations of state formations and feminist and nationalist resistance movements.
From a historically grounded, feminist perspective, Bose offers four case studies, each of which illuminates a distinct individualizing rhetorical strategy. She looks at the parliamentary debates on the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, in which several hundred unarmed Indian protestors were killed; Margaret Cousin's firsthand account of feminist organizing in Ireland and India; Kalpana Dutt's memoir of the Bengali terrorist movement of the 1930s, which was modeled in part on Irish anti-colonial activity; and the popular histories generate by ex-colonial officials and their wives. Bringing to the fore the constraints that colonial domination placed upon agency and activism, Organizing Empire highlights the complexity of the multiple narratives that constitute British colonial history.
PURNIMA BOSE is Associate Professor of English at Indiana University.
"At various levels, from the city to the institutions and from the neighborhood to the dwelling, the ideal and the real about the social relationship between men and women is expressed in the built form. Cultural rules govern the use of space and codes regulate behavior between genders.
This book examines the role of women as consumers and creators of the built space and focuses particularly on India and parts of South Asia. The essays included here explore the gender perspective from various angles. They cover a wide range of issues such as domesticity and home, women laborers and construction work, the practice of architecture, education in general and in schools of architecture, women and leisure as well as women's relationship to the public sphere and housing in the vernacular mode."
The book interrogates the experience of being young and becoming adult in rural Bangladesh, in a context of profound processes of socioeconomic change.
Throughout South Asia, new educational opportunities and an increase in the age at which girls and boys get married are opening new spaces for young people to live the passage to adulthood. This book documents and describes the everyday reality of this changing gendered transition for young people in a rural area of South West Bangladesh. It focuses on three main areas that are central to young people's experience: those of college and student life, friendships and relationships with those of the same sex and across sexes and marriage and the issues involved in the choice of a marriage partner.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) are usually publicised as 'miracle cures for infertility.' However, the social and economic context in which these technologies are developed and promoted have a strong bearing on their use or misuse.
Carefully packaged in the garb of 'modernity' and 'choice,' the efficacy of these technologies is difficult to challenge. On a deeper analysis, their costs seem to heavily outweigh the benefits. A chain of adverse effects on women's and children's health, commodification of their bodies, commercialisation of the reproductive process, unabashed encouragement to sex selection, obsession about biological progeny and eugenics are only some of the concerns that ARTs bring to the fore.
This book is an attempt to look into various aspects of ARTs - their social, medical, legal and economic implications on women in particular, and society at large. The book comprises seven essays by eminent activists and academics, each exploring a specific aspect of ART.
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